Archana Swaminathan, a PR professional from Mumbai, tried it all to lose those extra kilos but battled severe fatigue, mood swings and poor immunity. The young professional recalls how humble dal & rice for dinner, aided in her weight loss and why she would be relishing it at least 4 nights a week.

Let me confess. I love rice and I can eat it any time in the day or at night. Rice has always been a staple dish in my family’s kitchen and as a child, I relished each hot morsel of it, laced with ghee along with aromatic curries, delectable dals, rasam and even papad. 

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In fact, in my childhood, my mother would insist me and my siblings on eating a bowl full of fermented rice mixed with fresh curd for breakfast. Her logic? It improves immunity, builds resistance against seasonal infections, it keeps you satiated for longer hours and that’s why it is the most preferred food of those who toil under the hot sun in agricultural fields and other laborious jobs. Also Read: Brown Rice Vs White Rice: Which Is Better?


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It may sound quite unappetizing to start your day and I never believed in these claims, till I came across various research studies and papers published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) and other journals. Several studies reveal that fermenting leftover rice in water or in milk, topped with a little bit of curd doubles up its nutritional value and meets your daily requirement of calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron and it is an ultimate probiotic that can keep your gut happy and healthy. Ok. Agreed, my mother and grandmother were right. Traditional wisdom, after all. 

Again, despite it being my most favourite meal, and my ultimate comfort food, I had to give up rice at least twice a week for my lunch and carry a dabba filled with whole wheat bread sandwich, oats idli or even a boring quinoa salad, all thanks to the prying eyes of my friends and colleagues – “Hey, what’s there in your box, today?”

Rice in any form or in variety, be it as a dosa, idli, Pongal or a long, grainy Basmati, fluffy Sona Masoori to tasty Ponni has undergone severe ridicule in the recent years. Reason? Carbs, you see. Carbohydrates make you put on weight and if you are a diabetic, don’t even think about it. It spikes your blood sugar levels as it is super high on the glycemic index.

Well, the claim that rice will make you put on ‘weight’ worked like a mantra on me. Like many other girls in their late 20s, I am no exception to fad diets. At one moment, I believed that ‘keto’ would help me lose weight in a jiffy, while at another time nothing looked more appealing than the ‘intermittent fasting.’ Saying no to ‘food’, counting calories, sharing gyan on how much protein intake your body would need, discussions and debates about popular diet trends, contradictory opinions about the advice that get circulated by celebrity nutritionists, I have seen, practiced it all. 

Even as it was growing into an obsession of sorts, with me swinging between from one fad diet plan to another, I could sense something was wrong with my health. 

My energy levels were constantly low, and I would feel fatigued by 5 pm. Though I conveniently blamed the regular bout of flu and cough on the rains lashing out Mumbai, every other day, it also signified me about poor immunity levels. 

Sleep was disturbed, insomnia haunted, hair loss was terrifying, mood swings were terrible as if I suffered from round-the-month, PMS. 

But as they say, not all days are the same. On a rainy evening, all curled up in bed with severe cold and mild headache, I couldn’t say no to my mother’s hot dal rice. The ultimate comfort food, a piping hot bowl of golden dal mixed with rice, zinging with cumin, hing and mustard, topped with ghee was just divine and I relished it to my heart’s content. 

The next morning was no different when it came to my cold, but I noticed being a lot more energetic, having slept well. The standard earful from my parents on my eating habits did not irritate me. As the evening approached, I craved for the same comfort food. 

This time, I had my rice with tomato tadka. I slept well, cold symptoms started wearing down and I successfully fought back fatigue consecutively for two days. I decided to stay away from diet plans for a month and switch over to my childhood diet. I also stopped obsessing over my weighing scale, pushed it under the bed. 

While my breakfast was quite South Indian loaded with protein-filled dosas, idlis, poha, pongal I started packing my lunch box with boiled vegetables, roti and sabzi. A small box of curd soothed my tummy, but I craved for my evening dinners of all. 

And you may ask, isn’t that boring? Nope! I invented and discovered new tastes. If Palak dal with garlic warmed my appetite one night, I whipped toor dal with red chilli and crushed garlic tadka in ghee on another. I experimented with toor dal, masoor dal, moong dal and various lentils, all mixed with rice in equal proportions. Also Read: 5 Dals That Must Be Part Of Your Daily Diet

The cheat days were however there, thanks to weekends and mind you, I never resisted cheese-loaded pizzas and creamy pastas but on weekdays it was always rice and dal for dinner, all in moderation. I also vowed to walk for 20 minutes in a day – no brisk walk, just a relaxed one. 

As they say, pleasant surprises come in small packages but for me it was huge. While trying to fit into an extra-large size Maxi gown at a branded showroom, I realized the dress did actually look outsized on my body. I tried a large size and it did hug my body correctly. 

Voila! I dropped a size and I look toned. My stomach doesn’t look bloated, my double chin seems to have melted and my arms seemed firm. 

Did I lose weight? Yes! I did. I lost 3 kilograms sans any hunger pangs, fatigue, hair loss, mood swings and emotional outbursts, all in a month’s time. 

Can I conveniently say that my changed eating habits, dedication to consume in moderate amounts, the inclusion of a lot of vegetables and fruits, enjoying my cheat days bereft of guilt contributed to it? Maybe, but I am still partial to my comfort food dal and chawal and will give it a huge credit. 

Again, traditional wisdom stands vindicated. Carbs along with protein, amino acids helped me sleep better, boosted metabolism which in turn aided my gut health and made better absorption of nutrients, improved blood circulation, regulated hormones and put my life back on track.

I never thought that a little change in my diet plan would work wonders and I started reading more about it. The studies in fact served like myth busters. I will no longer relish my rice and dal, with guilt. It regained the spot of my favourite food, again, this time with more glory!

Expert’s Note: 

Wonder, how Archana lost her weight with her dal & chawal diet? All she did was to eat in moderation, include greens and vegetables and walking for half-an-hour daily. What’s more, it is one such wonder diet that can sustain weight loss for longer years, than you actually thought.  

5 Reasons Why Rice and Dal Can Aid Your Weight Loss Agenda

  • Rice and dal are an eclectic mix of amino acids. Both ingredients complement each other and offer a complete profile of amino acids. Rice is a rich source of cysteine and methionine while they are not found in dals or lentils. Dals are loaded with lysine, that cannot be traced in rice. Often referred to as building blocks of proteins, amino acids process proteins, regulate hormones and synthesize neurotransmitters.  
  • And what’s rice and dal without ghee? Add ghee to your dish according to your taste. Ghee is a powerhouse of Omega 3 fats also known as DHA and Omega 6 (CLA) which contribute majorly to your weight loss. Ghee in fact, breaks down the fat, mobilizes fat cells and helps in burning it for energy. It also provides our daily dose of Omega 3 that is essential for optimum brain functioning. 
  • If you were asked to eat dal and rice, to soothe a tummy there is a reason behind that. All types of dals are high on protein and when mixed with rice, the amount of fibre and antioxidants double up. This humble dish will provide you with Vitamins A, E, D and K that help in decreasing inflammation and promote immunity. 
  • The other ingredients in dal, chawal like turmeric, cumin and mustard provide overall wellbeing. While turmeric may not directly help you lose weight, if you are one of those suffering from chronic inflammation, turmeric is the key to beat it. Being antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and rich in antioxidants, it triggers weight loss. Cumin, mustard, hing, on the other hand, expedite the digestion for better absorption of nutrients. Also Read: 5 Incredibly Healthy Spices Loaded With Nutrition
  • Make sure you eat dinner by 8 pm as it provides ample time for the body to digest the food, absorb all the nutrients before your next meal – breakfast.


First Published on PatientsAlike on March 13, 2020